The makers, the stories and the materials

These are some of the metalworkers, shoemakers, weavers, jewellers and paper-makers who created artefacts in this exhibition. For more information about these or any of the other objects featured in the exhibition, visit

Tools of the trade

Most makers work in improvised workshops, often without electricity or running water. They generally use hand tools – pliers, hammers, scissors, knives and punches. They often make their own tools or adapt existing ones.


Raw materials

Their raw materials are mainly discarded, mass-produced consumer goods and packaging. They either salvage materials for free or buy them cheaply from waste merchants who, in turn, buy materials from local informal waste collectors. Others buy clean, rejected or off-cut materials cheaply from factories.


© know trash 2015

Metal: ‘I Saw a Can and I Saw Money’


Luvuyo Nathi is an inspiring example of how upcycling can provide livelihoods. Trained in upholstery, he uses this skill to create products such as bags, boxes, model vehicles and caps from discarded drink cans.

Can collection

Luvuyo organises street children to collect cans off the pavements of Cape Town in South Africa. They collect half a million cans a year. He pays by the sackload, giving children essential funds for food and shelter.  

Making products

His 55 workers each have different tasks. They either wash the cans, cut off the ends, shape pieces for caps or bags, glue these onto scrap vinyl or sew the parts together with recycled telephone wire.

© know trash 2015

Paper Possibilities


Paper comes from trees, which are a renewable resource. Making paper, however, requires vast amounts of water, chemicals and energy, so it makes sense to reuse or recycle it wherever possible.  


A versatile material
In many countries, imaginative upcyclers re-use outdated newspapers, magazines and calendars, discarded office paper and cardboard. They fold, roll, cut, plait, coil and weave the paper, or soak it into a pulp to make new paper or moulded artefacts.


Made from magazines

For thousands of years, country dwellers wove, plaited and coiled baskets, bowls and mats with bendy natural fibres that grew locally. Today, urban crafters adopt the same techniques, using rolled paper instead. Some cut and fold paper into colourful origami containers.


Papier-mâché and pulp

In Kashmir, Cuba and Mexico, skilled makers transform waste paper into colourful papier-mâché boxes and frames. Once dried, these are painted and coated with varnish. Artisans from Orissa in India mould waste pulp into pots and dishes, which they decorate with intricate floral or animal designs.

© know trash 2015

Plastic: Beach Bounty


KEAG, an environmental project in South Africa, organises long-term unemployed people from Cape Peninsula townships to collect beach waste, which is mostly floating plastic.


Saleable crafts

Instead of sending the plastic detergent and drinks bottles, bottle caps, rope, netting, flip-flops and jerrycans to landfill, KEAG commissions a local artist to transform them into saleable products.


The ideas are both practical and decorative – bead curtains, candlesticks, Christmas decorations, mirror frames, bracelets and animal masks. The crafters need only simple hand tools, either punching out shapes or cutting them out with scissors.

© know trash 2015

Textiles: Cut-up Clothes


Many Hmong people live in the harsh highlands of Vietnam, where producing enough food is difficult. Traditionally, the women made their household clothing from hemp, which they grew, spun, wove and dyed themselves. Nowadays, textile recycling offers them a way of making an income.


Men wore waistcoats with decorated collars. Women made a new pleated and elaborately embroidered skirt every year, which they wore for the first time at New Year celebrations.


Often, women now prefer to buy factory-made, synthetic clothes, which are lighter, cooler and easy to wash. They earn money by turning worn waistcoat collars into bags and purses and old skirts into jackets, bedspreads and toys. The cash helps pay for extra food, clothing, health care, a clean water supply and fuel.

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© Winchester Action on Climate Change